advice? working in a low quality Special Education program

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by PiscesMom, Feb 12, 2017.

  1. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    hi! I want to get your thoughts - I work in a sped classroom - first grade-ish; kids have pretty severe needs. Anyway the teacher and two of the aides (there are like 4 or 5 of us) just talk pretty much all day., love, what they did over the weekend, recipes, gossip, they mock parents, even each other if one is not present... I really try hard to be there and give the kids an enriching experience, and most of the staff is pretty dismissive to me. I am sort of new, and tried really hard to get to know them, etc, but it is not happening. Its like high school. Or I am doing a bad job and that's why people are chilly? But that is not as concerning as the lack of focus on the children's needs.
    The work is the same every day, nothing ever changes, there is never any attempt to make the work interesting or inspiring. It is solid, disconnected rote work. "Art" is cookie cutter and nothing to do with anything they know about. Everything is delivered verbally, regardless of hearing ability - they don't use any visuals, PECS or anything.
    I have two kids with special needs and have always revered teachers (I LOVE my daughter's teacher) and really give people the benefit of the doubt. It is hard to work there because I feel sort of disliked - I interact w the kids a lot, play with them - I am shy and introverted and just don't like chewing the fat, also because I don't have a lot of respect for the teacher anymore.
    Oh, and I previously worked in an excellent - no other word - program for three years. We all got close, but we never EVER behaved like that.

    What can or should I do, if anything? Is this normal?
  2. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    i mean be "there" for the kids, if anyone read this. be present, helping them learn to play, giving them non verbal cues, etc.
  3. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I don't know if that's the norm, but I've seen it, too. I substitute in elementary, and I see the pack of aides, leading the kids out at recess, and then they just kind of stand around till it's time to gather the kids up and take them back to class.

    I would think finding ways to engage the kids and help them learn would be a priority.
  4. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    I feel like the parents, the administration, the taxpayers should know. It really makes me mad. A few of the aides are going to school to be teachers!
  5. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    It sounds like the district has little accountability for the aides, and they only have to be present, the "warm body in the room" thing. I've seen some schools with awesome programs, one-on-one aides that are really into working with their assigned child, and then I've seen some that do a lot of nothing.

    Somewhere there should be a specific job description, written out, that has the duties and responsibilities of the position. That might be your first step, to see if there are any standards of behavior that aides are held to, and then to see exactly what the job is supposed to entail. Unfortunately, the district may not really care what the aides do or don't do, as long as they can show they have X number of aides for X number of children for X amount of time, meeting whatever state guidelines they have.
  6. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    This sounds like a frustrating situation.

    Do any of the parents stop by during the day?

    The teacher is neglecting her responsibilities and allowing her aides to do the same. It sounds like all she wants is to collect a paycheck and do as little as possible, and to pass the time by talking with other adults instead of interacting with the kids.

    Is there any possibility of getting a transfer or a new job somewhere else?

    If so, I would explain to the principal in the exit interview exactly what the circumstances were and why you felt the need to leave.

    If changing jobs for next year is not an option, could you talk to the parents and maybe feel them out as to their concerns about the program or how their children are doing/progressing? Maybe you can get some parent feedback that you could justify taking to the teacher or principal. Or maybe a parent would feel understood if they have any concerns, and go to the principal or teacher on their own.

  7. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    This is scary to me but I know two school aides in different states snd Special Education classrooms plus my own son was in one for a while. The two friends i know are not always happy with the rules, but their classrooms are not chaos with everyone just talking. My son was saved in many ways by a dedicated teacher and aide.

    I was a very involved mom and checked my sons classroom a lot. If i had seen that, it would not have been pretty. I would have reported the program to the Dept. Of Public Education. What specific kind of classroom is this supposed to be?

    If this is your income, and you cant quit before getting another job, just do your best. I know that at many workplaces your own boss will not back you up if you complain, but if somebody in the district would like to know, you can try voicing your concerns.

    Those poor kids need more than babysitting.
  8. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Piscesmom - In my experience with Boo (oldest son with spastic quad (severe cerebral palsy), zero functional movement, nonverbal, g-tube fed, vision impairment), the classroom you describe is not unusual. I would highly doubt administration gives a darn about it, and it's exceptionally difficult to educate parents as to what sped *should* be when this is all they've ever been given. It's warehousing, pure and simple. Looks like sped on paper, and that's really all admin cares about. Boo was in one class that consisted simply of diaper changing and tube feeding. Period. Fortunately, that was only right after we moved to IL and I was able to get him into a less horrific setting in pretty short order. It helped that the one sense that is highly tuned in my kid is his hearing - I distinctly remember an aide in that classroom commenting that it totally freaked them out when Boo was laughing over conversations they had. Boo doesn't miss a thing. ;)

    I think you have 2 options - find another placement for you or stay and do your best for the kids. Don't expect to bring the other aides or teacher around to your thinking. Just my experience again, but once you run into someone with that mindset, the best thing to do is put them on mute. You will not change their mind. And don't expect them to be impressed that you're doing your job. (sigh) If you voice your concerns to parents and/or admin, your job will be in jeopardy. in my humble opinion.

    If you stay, you *will* make a difference, but (trust me) I know how exhausting it can be to try to swim upstream. In an interesting bit of "ain't life funny", I worked as an aide in a private sped school 8 years before I had Boo.... it was one of the best jobs I ever had. I *loved* those kids. But being a private school, they had seriously invested teachers and admin. While I've run across a few of those kinds of folks in Boo's public education, I have to admit they were few and far between.

    A glimmer of hope may be looming for your class (and all our sped kids) - SCOTUS heard arguments last month in a case re: Endrew F (not a typo) vs. a Colorado school district. IDEA states that a sped kid must receive "some" educational benefit from sped. Anyone with a severely involved kid knows that "some" educational benefit is virtually meaningless in real life. It's warehousing and teaching the kid (and parents) to be compliant consumers of [email protected] services in the future (Boo's district failed miserably, LOL). Endrew has autism and his parents (God bless them) had the fortitude and finances to fight when Endrew consistently failed to meet IEP goals. They yanked him from public school, enrolled him in a private school where he is now making progress, and now they want public school to pay. Public school said no, that he was receiving "some" educational benefit in their program (despite not meeting IEP goals). Lower courts have backed up SD (not surprising). Who knows what SCOTUS will say, but at least someone has raised the flag that we are doing a *gross* disservice to our sped kids. Of course, in the unlikely chance that SCOTUS agrees with the parents (which I really hope for, but also doubt - I'm a skeptic, LOL), it will still fall on parents to advocate for their kids and really hold districts accountable for the appropriate services they *should* be providing to their sped kids.
  9. Crayola13

    Crayola13 Active Member

    I hate it when they treat aides like that. I don't teach special edition, but the quality of education those children receive now is better than it was years ago. However, depending on the school, it can be as bad as it was 20 years ago. If parents can afford it, a lot of special education students need to be in private schools where they can get proper help. Most parents cannot afford to send their children to those places.
  10. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    It is the teacher. She spends much of the day talking to two of the aides about her personal life.
  11. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    Wow. I am glad Boo has a better placement now. You say less horrible, hope that means kind of good?

    I moved to another state, actually am in a wealthy area in California. I wondered if it was just how it was here. I may look into working at a private school, although that would be with wealthier kids, so I am not sure how I feel about that.
    I wish there was some way for parents, anyone to view into the classroom. Like a curtain or something.
  12. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    It is a "moderate severe" classroom. It is just such a shock after my old job, back in my old state, which was public as well but the teacher was amazing and we were observed a lot. Very progressive, play based, we never yelled DO YOUR WORK ever, because we made it interesting and fun. And they learned a lot. I am thinking of posting a review on Glass Door or something - or maybe when parents review the school, I can post about what they are calling Special Education.
  13. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    Thank you all for your answers!! I really appreciate it.
  14. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    I appreciate GREATLY that you at least are trying hard to help special needs children. The teacher is at fault here and is lucky she never met me lol.

    But YOU are an angel. Many people are not at all caring about our most needy little ones. And you care. Thank you. My sons aide/para helped him more than his teacher. I loved her. So did he. You have a hard job and get no credit. But moms like me know your worth. Its gold!
    Try to ignore high schoolish work cliques. I know its hard.
  15. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member


    I'm also a Special Education aide. The focus of our day is on the kids, all day every day. We will occasionally have a side conversation, but the majority of our talks have to do with the kids. What to do about Sam and Sally and Fred.

    I know my administrators were worried about chatting aides, because they asked me a question about it in my interview. If I went to my supervisor about coworkers, I doubt that he would take action. I think if I were in your shoes, I'd just be doing what I could to make it more enriching and interesting for the kids. The others won't like you for it, but it really isn't about them. It's about making a difference for the children.

    You could consider having a chat with the teacher about your concerns. I'm not sure that you'd get anywhere with her, but she isn't really doing her job.

    I remember years ago when I was teaching preschool, I had a child that came to me from a prestigious private preschool. He loved being in my class. He was bilingual (Hungarian and English) and I had him count for us and teach us Hungarian words. (My stars that is a hard language!) At the end of the year, his mother and I asked him why he liked my class better than the other school. He was able to articulate that at the other school they had the exact same toys out every day. They did the same activities every day. He was bored. Routine is fine, but kids need their little minds to be stimulated in some way. All kids.

    Good for you for recognizing the deficit.
  16. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    The kids are lucky to have you. The other teacher and aides are the problem with special education in my opinion. Sadly there are too many teachers/aides like them out there. If you complain, it will likely go badly for you. You will be seen as betraying them, or some such nonsense. Bucking the system or making waves in a bureaucracy is not really a successful thing unless you have some sort of power. It is sad, and the children are the ones who suffer.

    I wish that EVERY special education class had a teacher and aides like my son had for his 5th grade year. The teacher loved her job and worked HARD to meet every child on his or her level no matter where that was. She taught the really slow kids the alphabet and she brought college textbooks in to teach my son. All in the same classroom at the same time. And they all made progress as much as they could. They were truly incredible. I still see one of the aides around town and I know Wiz still has a special bond with her. I wish every child had teachers like this. Wouldn't that give us an incredible future?

    The only realistic options that you have are to find another position with another teacher, one who is actually a good teacher who cares, as this teacher clearly does not care, or else to stay and do what you can. If you choose to complain, find another position first for they WILL make your life miserable or else do all they can to fire you or make you quit if you make waves. I wish it was different, but I doubt that it is.
  17. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Sadly people in low and middle level jobs have nowhere to go to complain in our will be seen as a troublemaker if you make waves. And I contacted an employment lawyer once to be told that anyone can be fired for any reason unless you can prove it was due to disability, race or religion. You can legally be fired for no good reason at all although many employers want to make it look legit and get files, with some fake facts, on tje employee they wish to get rid of. Dont count on your coworkers, who know you were wronged, to step up. They need their job.

    So unless you have a lot of money and can afford to walk, and can start up or get another job easily because you are a doctor or other very high level worker, you have no power. Sad but true. And most workers dont have the money to drag an employer through the courts anyway.

    Makes it hard for a worker with integrity to make a difference.
  18. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    I am in a union, luckily. I can't imagine the anxiety of working in a right to work state or whatever Wisconsin has become. I am looking for another job, or just to do a lateral transfer.
  19. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    I think there should be more transparency about what goes on in classrooms. Maybe a window for parents and directors to view unseen? I sure wouldn't mind. I think teachers need more support, observations, and continued learning. I think nearby universities should get involved as well, and share the latest research. This district is just not that great.
    I feel like there is two issues here - the teacher and her Besties classroom culture, and also the shoddiness of the district.
    I wish I could fix the world.
  20. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Ive heard some unions are useless too. I hope not yours. When i called the employment lawyer i lived in Illinois and was pretty much not given any hope. And Illinois is supposed to be better for workers but unless you are in an awesome union or are an irreplaceable employee (and who is?) the power lies with the employer. And its not getting any more employee friendly. in my opinion an employee should be able to bring complaints about the work environment without getting fired. But i learned its not that way at all.